Philip Blumel: Purple state progress. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the tournaments movement for the week of November 15th, 2021.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: As the year winds down, most of the state’s legislative sessions are now over, but one exception is Pennsylvania, where the house recently held hearings on one vital piece of legislation, the Term Limits Convention Resolution. Also, former South Carolina Governor and US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, was quoted, calling for cognitive testing on our increasingly aged congressional leaders and other politicians. Wow. To discuss these issues, I’m joined by US Term Limit’s Executive Director, Nick Tomboulides. Hey, Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Happy Veterans Day to all the veterans who listen to this podcast.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, absolutely. Nick, I wanna talk a little bit about the state legislatures. We haven’t had much action lately, because most of the legislatures are not in session, but we had some action this last week in Pennsylvania, that’s a year-round legislature. Why don’t you tell us what happened?
Nick Tomboulides: Yes, Pennsylvania, the State House there actually had a hearing on congressional term limits, more specifically the term limits convention, and that happened in the Pennsylvania State House, State Government subcommittee. It was chaired by State Representative, Ryan McKenzie, who also happens to be the lead sponsor of the Term Limits convention bill, HR 57.
Nick Tomboulides: And what this means is term limits convention is moving forward in Pennsylvania. The hearing was about an hour long, it was attended by US term limits Regional Director, Kenn Quinn, US Term Limits legislative advocate for Pennsylvania, Mike Riley. There was a very good back and forth debate, discussion, and it’s a sign, Phil, that we could be nearing a breakthrough in this very important target state, very important swing state of Pennsylvania.
Philip Blumel: That’s exciting. It’s a purple state. Of course, this is a sort of a purple issue, and I know that we’ve had a lot of support from both the Democrats and the Republicans in Pennsylvania, notably some giants of Pennsylvania politics, including Ed Rendell, the former Governor of the state, a Democrat, and Pat Toomey, US senator from Pennsylvania. They did a… Not bad together, in a geo…
Nick Tomboulides: It was in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Philip Blumel: Oh, in the Inquirer, okay. And that sent shock waves through the political establishment in Pennsylvania, really help put this legislation on the map. I assume that this has been introduced in the legislature for the session, of course, or we wouldn’t be having this hearing.
Nick Tomboulides: Yes.
Philip Blumel: But we’ve had it in the last couple of years too. How long have we been working on Pennsylvania?
Nick Tomboulides: We’ve been working on Pennsylvania for a couple of years, but prior to 2021, everything we did there was very preliminary. We were trying to set the table, we were trying to have discussions with legislators behind the scenes, educate them, get them up to speed on term limits and how the convention process works. So we basically were laying the groundwork before, but now we’ve pivoted and we have a real vehicle, HR 57, this legislation, this resolution, and SJR-3. There’s a Senate companion as well, it’s actually been introduced by the Senate President, Jake Corman. That doesn’t happen every day. So, I would say we were laying the groundwork before, but now this is really primed to move forward, and it needs to be an all-hands-on-deck approach, we need to have those big-time influencers like Pat Toomey and Ed Rendell speaking out. We need our state legislative champions to be fighting hard, and then most importantly, we need all of our grassroots activists in Pennsylvania to be contacting their own state legislators and saying, “We want to see this happen.”
Philip Blumel: That’s exciting.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, and the Toomey-Rendell thing is very cool, because sometimes when we go into a state, we’re asking state legislators to Term Limit Congress, and they’ll say, “Well, I don’t wanna piss off my US senator, ’cause there’s no way he’s gonna want term limits.” Well, Pat Toomey is your US senator in Pennsylvania, and he wants term limits, he’s begging you to term-limit him out of Congress, and in fact, he is retiring after this term, he’s term-limiting himself. Toomey is a statesman. It’s great to have Rendell on board as well, or just kind of burnishing the bipartisan credentials of term limits.
Philip Blumel: Sometimes, one thing that makes legislators reticent also, is that the Pennsylvania legislature is not term limited, and so sometimes politicians think there’s a perception problem with having these non-term limited state legislators be calling for term limits on Congress. And I know that there was an opinion piece in a newspaper there in Pennsylvania recently, that basically took legislators to task for calling for term limits for someone else. Of course, we have no problem with this at all, we want term limits on everybody, but I’d like to point out also that the voters don’t have a problem with that so-called perception problem either, we actually have polling that polls opinion research did back in 2020, that specifically asked voters or told voters that, “Hey, look, your Pennsylvania legislators are not term limited. Do you have a problem? Or would you be more or less likely to vote for them now that they’re pushing for congressional term limits?” And by large majorities as usual, Democrats, Republicans and Independents all said, “We’re more likely to vote for our local guy if he’s pushing for congressional term limits, whether or not he’s term limited and whether or not he’s supporting state-level term limits.” So that’s sort of a… It’s sort of a false perception because nobody really cares or feels uncomfortable about that except for the state legislators themselves.
Nick Tomboulides: It’s a real bogus false perception, and it’s nothing for the state legislators nor anyone else to worry about. What this is, is this is an activist, radical newspaper columnist who is trying to create some kind of dissension within the legislature so that they might feel reluctant to move forward with congressional term limits because he’s brought this up, but it really is nonsense. Like, if you look at the whole landscape of our country and where we have term limits and where we don’t… We’ve had term limits on the President for 70 years, but no term limits on Congress. We’ve got term limits on 36 governors, no term limits on another 14. Term limits on some cities, but not others. Term limits on state legislatures in some areas, but not others. We can’t let that kind of messy landscape of not continuous… Not always consistent in every place, we can’t let that get in the way of term limiting Congress. We’ve gotta keep our eyes on the prize here. These are just distractions from these columnists, they don’t wanna see term limits happen. But dogs don’t chase parked cars, the fact that they’re even writing about this tells me that we are making headway in PA.
Philip Blumel: That’s right, so let’s get back to nuts and bolts. On this hearing, What was the result of it? They were discussing the pros and cons of calling for a term limits convention to amend the US Constitution, and was there a vote taken as part of the hearing?
Nick Tomboulides: There was no vote taken yet, I believe that is the next step in the process. First, they discuss, then a vote comes later on. But judging by where the committee stands, I think we’re at or above a majority of members on this committee being supportive. It was a good mix of questioning. Kenn Quinn was up there for a while, he kind of channeled Ben Franklin in his testimony. I would go on our website and watch the clip of this hearing, ’cause Kenn, he blends history, constitutional law, in a very entertaining way. I could have saved a lot of money on college history classes by switching to Kenn Quin instead of the American university system.
Philip Blumel: We should listen to Kenn’s testimony right now, I heard it was excellent.
Kenn Quinn: Thank you for this opportunity. Good morning, and I appreciate the time we can spend here in the next few minutes to discuss this very important issue. I’m from Bridgton, Maine, and I’m here in support, obviously, of congressional term limits. And one of the main reasons for that is because this is an issue that many, many people around the country and in the state of Pennsylvania support. I just wanna reference two of the exhibits I provided, two polls. One is the recent poll by Scott Rasmussen, which was a national poll, and it shows that this issue, term limits for Congress, is supported by 82% of the American people, and that is 87% Republicans, 83% Democrats, and 78% independents.
Kenn Quinn: This is the number one issue in the country today that spans the political spectrum for support, and which is what’s required in order to have a successful amendment. Here in Pennsylvania, the numbers are very tight, it’s 79% overall, and that’s 78% Republican, 79% Democrats, and 77% independents. That’s just one of the reasons that we support this. And the reason there is such high support among the American people, is simple. Congress is broken, it’s dysfunctional. We see this on a daily basis. And this is nothing new, this issue, the American people have been wanting for decades. You may recall the 1990s, 23 states passed laws putting term limits on their own congressional delegations. 21 of those states, that people actually voted for at the ballot box. I’m from Maine, we voted for it twice. And unfortunately, what happened was, it got challenged, it rose, and it went all the way to the US Supreme Court. And in 1995, the Supreme Court ruled against all 23 laws, overturning those laws. And I provided the quote, so this is what the court stated: “State in position of term limits for congressional servers would affect such a fundamental change in the constitutional framework, that it must come through a constitutional amendment, properly passed, under the procedures set forth in Article 5.”
Kenn Quinn: Now, I’m not gonna bore you with the stats on Article 5 of the process, you already know that, it’s either two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, or upon the application of two-thirds of the state legislatures. We don’t have a lot of faith that Congress is going to limit their own terms. We do have a lot of support currently, in Congress, over 90 current members of Congress have signed on and co-sponsored Term Limits Amendments that we have had introduced, however, to get to two-thirds is simply… Is not attainable at this point, and that’s where you come in. It’s only by pressure from the state legislatures that we’ll actually see this reality. And in fact, I would like to refer to one of your own. And in my research on Article 5, the first person that I found that ever suggested an Article 5 convention for congressional term limits, was a gentleman by the name of Tench Cox, from Philadelphia. July 1788, is when he made the suggestion. This was one month after the Constitution was ratified.
Kenn Quinn: And I just wanna read a quick sentence. He said, “You have been told also, that after the new constitution takes place, the officers under it may become perpetual. Now, it is fully and absolutely secure that no representative, Senator, President or Vice President, can continue beyond a stipulated time. And if the people think that time too long, they can get their state legislatures to apply for its being shortened. If nine legislatures out of 13 apply this year, or 10 years hence, there must be a convention called to consider the point.” That was over 200 years ago, and this issue has not gone away. Many of the framers supported term limits back then, they called it rotation of office.
Kenn Quinn: I’m not gonna spend a lot of time in regards to why we need them, I just wanna briefly remind us that the approval ratings of Congress have consistently been very low, 15% to 20% for decades, yet the reelection rate has been over 96%, and that is because the incumbents have such an advantage over any challengers. The failure of Congress to address critical issues in our country, the debt, Immigration, healthcare, they continue to kick the can down the road, on these issues. We find them listening to their funders more than their constituents. Right now, a lot of good people don’t bother to run, because they just cannot simply raise millions of dollars to go against an incumbent’s war chest. And that’s where Term limits really will be a benefit in a reform, to the American people.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, Ken making some great points there. Mike Riley, who is our legislative advocate in Pennsylvania, he was also a superstar in this hearing, and he was asking some very poignant questions like, “Are you happy with the government and the Congress you have right now? Do you wanna see change?” He goes around State, and he’s been basically the heart and soul of this effort, he’s gotten 25,000 people who’ve been helped across the state, to get behind the effort here, sign up to support it. And he just had some real gems in his testimony, like talked about how Congress with such low approval ratings in the basement, is a one-star Congress. And then he asked the politicians, Would you eat in a one-star restaurant? Would you stay in a one-star hotel? If the answer to that question is No, then you shouldn’t put up with this one-star Congress, you should demand better out of our federal representatives.
Nick Tomboulides: I thought that was a point that really resonated. I could see a lot of the gears in the heads of the state legislators turning, and I thought it was a really productive hearing, and I thought term limits won the day, quite frankly.
S?: This is a public service announcement.
Nick Tomboulides: If you’re ever wondering, What is the engine that powers the term limits movements, it’s our grassroots activists and our volunteers. We can’t do this without them. So for this podcast, I spent a little time speaking with one of our all-star volunteers, Jeffrey Harper from Kentucky. Jeffrey has a great story, and he is making an amazing impact in his state, and he’s a great example of how we can all stand up and get involved in taking our government back.
Nick Tomboulides: So Jeffrey, welcome to the No Uncertain Terms podcast. We’re here with Jeffrey Harper, who is one of our leading activists in the State of Kentucky. Jeffrey, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in the term limits movement.
Jeffrey Harper: So my wife and I have been married for 20 years, and we have four kids together. I’m a security analyst for UPS airlines. I graduated with a political science degree from the University of Louisville, and the way I got involved with term limits was really, believe it or not, listening to Dave Ramsey.
Nick Tomboulides: Wow.
Jeffrey Harper: Dave Ramsey was touting term limits one day, not at any great detail, but he talked about it enough just to pique my interest, and began to really explore it and find out what it was really all about, and that’s how I discovered US term limits, and then I read the Term Limits Revolution, and was dedicated to the cause after that.
Nick Tomboulides: You know, it’s interesting you say that. I’ve never heard Dave Ramsey talk about term limits. But based on how fiscally responsible he is in every other aspect of his life, his head must be exploding every time he looks at Washington DC.
Jeffrey Harper: That was the impression that I got when I was listening to him on the radio that day, and this was actually several years ago. It’s not something that I jumped on right away, but it’s something that just kinda… He put a bug in my head. And it just kinda lingered, and the more I thought about it, the more I began to look into it and found out what a great organization this is. And I was really excited about the opportunity to help out.
Nick Tomboulides: Well, we really appreciate your help. And we talk a lot on this podcast about people, constituents who give their elected officials an ear-full over opposing term limits, but I think it’s also important that we emphasize that there are some really good guys out there in our…
Jeffrey Harper: Absolutely.
Nick Tomboulides: State legislatures who support term limits, and sometimes they don’t get the recognition that they deserve. So you had a trip to the state capital recently where you met with some legislators. Who did you meet with, and how did that go?
Jeffrey Harper: I met with Stephen Meredith, he represents District five here in the State of Kentucky, from Litchfield. And I had the opportunity to present him with a term limits recognition plaque, and talk about good people working in our state legislatures and in Congress. Those people do exist, and Stephen was definitely one of them. He’s a big supporter of the term limits movement, and he’s even offered tentatively, to sponsor legislation when it comes back up in Kentucky next session.
Nick Tomboulides: I hear from people all the time, about term limits, and they say, “Well, how do we get it done? What do I have to do?” And it really is as simple as just talking to your elected public servants, encouraging them to do the right thing, encouraging them to sign the pledge, giving them recognition such as the plaque, the term limits champion plaque, when they come on board. So there’s no doubt in my mind, that you giving Senator Meredith that plaque, that probably played a big role in influencing him in deciding to sponsor this.
Jeffrey Harper: Well, you know, it’s really interesting. The more people that you talk about term limits, it’s kind of like one of those topics… I have a hat just like you have on right now, US term limits hat, and I wear that at family gatherings. And every time that I do it, the response that I get from close and distant relatives is all the same, and it’s amazingly positive. It’s something that most people seem to agree on.
Nick Tomboulides: I hear that so much, and especially with Thanksgiving coming up, it’s more relevant than ever, because nobody wants to have that political debate at family Thanksgiving. Term limits is the one thing that everyone will actually agree on, you can all go home happy with your leftovers.
Jeffrey Harper: It’s a safe place to start a conversation, at least in my experience, that’s the way it’s been. Yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: So let me ask you, Jeffrey, you are from Kentucky, which is home to Senator Mitch McConnell who’s been in office quite a long time. What are your thoughts, as a constituent of Mitch McConnell, about him in general and his attitude toward term limits?
Jeffrey Harper: Yeah, well, Mitch McConnell, like you said, has been around for a very long time here. He’s a graduate of the University of Louisville, just like I am. I believe in a lot of the same things politically, that Mitch McConnell does, but I don’t believe that anybody should be in Congress for as long as Mitch McConnell or Nancy Pelosi, or so many people on both the left and the right have been in office. So there’s plenty of good people out there waiting in the wings, that can do a great job for us, representing us in Washington and in our state legislatures. I think that it’s good to get fresh blood in there as much as possible. And as much as I like Mitch, I’m ready for Mitch to retire.
Nick Tomboulides: [chuckle] I can’t disagree with you there. So, follow-up question. On term limits, we hear a lot people who say, “Well, it’s a great idea, but it’s never gonna happen because the chickens are not gonna vote for Colonel Sanders, to put it in Kentucky terms.
Jeffrey Harper: There you go.
Nick Tomboulides: How did you feel when you found out for the first time, that you didn’t actually need Congress to do anything, that the states actually have this power under the constitution, under Article 5, to get together in a convention and propose congressional term limits, nobody in DC can stop them? What did you think when you first found out about that?
Jeffrey Harper: To be perfectly honest with you, when I first found out about that, I was suspicious, because of the prevailing belief that is, if we invoke Article 5, it’s going to put everything on the table, and that’s not the case. And I think that you learn a lot about that by listening to these podcasts and getting to the real root of it, and the truth of what Article 5 is all about.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. We even see when the Founding Fathers were debating this, how initially they were gonna give Congress complete power over the amendments, and then you had one delegate, George Mason from Virginia, who got up there and said, “Well, wait a minute. If they have all the power, how are we ever gonna rein in their power?” And so this convention was born, it really is tailor-made to our issue. Let me ask you, Jeffrey, you’ve done quite a bit already, you’ve been an instrumental part of the grassroots effort there in Kentucky. What are your plans moving forward? Do you plan to be involved as this resolution moves through the process in the state capital?
Jeffrey Harper: I would absolutely love to have a hands-on approach to what we’re doing here in the State of Kentucky, what we’re trying to get done. I see it happening in other states surrounding us, most notably here in Tennessee recently, and I would love to see this happen… In Frankfort, and I would be very excited about the opportunity to participate in that at a greater level. Yes, absolutely. So it’s really an exciting thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do. I really do believe that, and that’s why I’m so behind it.
Nick Tomboulides:Well, thank you so much, sir. I know we truly appreciate you and all of your efforts, and we’re gonna have your back in Kentucky this upcoming session, and we’ll work together and we’ll get this done. So thank you so much, we really appreciate you.
Jeffrey Harper: Thanks for having me.
Philip Blumel: Nick, did you hear what Nikki Haley said this week about our aging Congress and other politicians in this country?
Nick Tomboulides: I did, and when I heard it, I stood up on my chair here at the office and I gave her a standing ovation.
Philip Blumel: [laughter] Well, she deserves it, absolutely. She was asked by the Christian Broadcasting Network, David Brody, about the President and the difficulties he’s having, and she was… She’s classy, and she didn’t wanna talk about the President’s issues. She made it more broad. But I’ll quote her, she says, “Right now, let’s face it, we have a lot of people in leadership that are old. And that’s not being disrespectful, that’s a fact. And when it comes to that, it should not be partisan. We should be seriously looking at the ages of the people that are running, and understand if that’s what we want.” And she went on to say that there should be some kind of… Some system, and she wasn’t very specific about this, we should come up with some system by which we could test, have some kind of cognitive tests for people that are making these important decisions, because our leadership in this country, at all levels, is aging. And a lot of the reason why that’s happening though, is two things. One, people can operate at a much higher level at an older age, than they did in the past. But that’s not the only reason or even the main one. It’s that people don’t lose elections because we don’t have rotation in office.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, the sentiment behind this is nothing new. There are already offices that have… Public offices that have basically de facto mental tests, like retirement ages for judges and other positions. The US Congress is one of the few places where we just let people run indefinitely, despite having major cognitive problems, as we can all see. But we could do it like, “Hey, politicians want people to show a vaccine passport when they want to dine in a restaurant, why don’t we make politicians show a career politician passport in order to get into the halls of Congress. If you’ve been there for a certain number of years, you can’t get back in. Sorry, pal, you gotta pack up and turn around. But it makes a lot of sense, and I like how she just jumped right over the whole Biden thing, and said, “We need mental tests for all politicians, whether it’s House, Senate, President, Vice President, test them all. Best way to approximate that is term limits.
Philip Blumel: Another way to go about it, of course, without having an extra requirement or without having… In fact, there might even be constitutional issues with the extra requirement, by the way. But a way around that, is to just encourage more rotation in office, because term limits, by limiting how long you can spend in office, really, really would prevent people, very aged people, from being in Congress in the first place, unless they originally ran for Congress and they’re already aged, because you’d be limited to a certain number of years in office. And that matters, because we know from statistics and studies, that the age of legislators in term-limited states, the average age is far lower than the average age of legislators in non-term limited states.
Philip Blumel: The last thing I saw was from the National Conference of State Legislatures, and this is from, I think, 2015. And they pointed out that the average age of a state legislator, which is younger than Congress, by the way, but the average age of a state legislator’s 56, versus 47, which is the average age of an adult in the United States. But in term limited states, it’s actually 44, three years younger than the average, and well younger than the average in the non-term limited states. So just having regular rotation in office, which has all kinds of benefits of its own, would sort of make the problem of aged leaders moot, and of course, that would make the problem of cognitive incompetency in our aged leaders, moot. So you don’t necessarily need to give somebody a test, you can just have a system that is fluid and works.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, and I think that would also allow for more elderly members of Congress who haven’t necessarily lost their mental faculties or who might be up there in age, but not up there in political entrenchment and corruption, to still have an opportunity to serve. But this problem is just… It has compounded, and it needs to be addressed. I was reading an article about Charles Grassley of Iowa, who is an 88-year-old US senator, who’s running for his eighth term.
Nick Tomboulides: And this is what the author of the piece, this is how he started his article. It was from Art Collin, who is editor of the Storm Lake Times in Iowa, opened the piece on Chuck Grassley, that such. Senator Charles E. Grassley was first elected to the Iowa State Legislature in 1958, when I was one year old, and Fidel Castro’s beard was just filling in. Now, I’m on Social Security, Castro is dead, and Grassley is running for another six-year senate term. [laughter] So they were talking about the Grassman here, we’re talking about Aw Shucks Chuck himself. Author points out that no one, including Grassley, can remember why Grassley got into politics in the first place, and that’s a problem.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, that is a problem. And he’s not the oldest senator either, that crown goes to Diane Feinstein.
Nick Tomboulides: Whose issues have been chronicled, have been well-chronicled on this podcast and in Washington Post, and many other sources.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, in fact, I think that… I know that that, what you just mentioned about Chuck Grassley is concerning, but I know that the issues that Diane Feinstein has been facing, they’re a lot more grave. And it’s a real shame, and it’s a shame for them too. Term limits provide a very dignified way to retire, you’re not giving up, you’re not leaving the job undone, your time is finished, and it’s… Everyone is in the same boat as you, you have a certain amount of years, and then the job is done. And I think that’s a graceful exit for a lot of these people too, that would otherwise feel like they need to or want to hang on to power forever. There’s a lot of benefits of term limits in the Congress, and that might seem like a minor one, but it’s real. It’d be real if it were you and you were there, that’s for sure.
Nick Tomboulides: Let’s avoid another Strom Thurmond and another Robert Burd. The job of the congressional staffer is not to be changing diapers. It’s gone way too far.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another episode of No Uncertain Terms. The Term Limits Convention bills are moving through the state legislatures, this could be a breakthrough year for the term limits movement. To check on the status of the Term Limits Convention Resolution in your state, go to termlimits.com/takeaction. There, you will see if it has been introduced, and where it stands in the committee process, on its way to the floor vote. If there’s action to take, you’ll see a Take Action button by your state, click it.
Philip Blumel: This will give you the opportunity to send a message to the most relevant legislators, urging them to support the legislation. They have to know you’re watching. That’s termlimits.com/takeaction. If your state has already passed the Term Limits Convention Resolution or the bill has not been introduced in your state, you can still help. Please consider making a contribution to US Term Limits. It is our aim to hit the reset button on the US Congress, and you can help. Go to termlimits.com/donate. Termlimits.com/donate. Thanks. We’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: Contact your state lawmakers before they vote on term limits for Congress. Go to termlimits.com/takeaction.